When it Comes to Dog Aggression, Does Size Matter?
Updated: Jan 22, 2021
A Royal Mail worker in southern London recently alleged that six-year-old Louie had bitten and drawn blood when she attempted to deliver the mail. Three police officers arrived at the home of the Anslows, a couple in their 60s, to confiscate Louie. Armed with “a lead that would fit a Rottweiler,” the officers quickly discovered that Louie was…a Chihuahua. Louie was not seized, but instead given a “behavior order.” (Story here.)
A police investigation confirmed that two people had reported being bitten by Louie. Owner Linda Anslow’s comment was, “I think this is just stupid and everyone is being a bit silly. The dog hardly even reaches your ankle.” But is it silly? What if Louie had been a Rottweiler, biting a postal worker two others? More than likely, Louie would have been seized and possibly even euthanized. While it’s true that a Rottweiler can do a lot more harm than a Chihuahua, when it comes to laws made to protect people from dogs, should size matter?
As a canine behavior specialist, I often see small dogs who have bitten multiple people. These dogs have bitten family members, visitors, the gardener…you name it. And yet, they are still living happily in the home with no complaints against them. I suspect this is partly because, especially for men, it might be embarrassing to show up at the local Animal Control office complaining of a bite from a Chihuahua. But a bite is a bite. Even a tiny dog who bites is inflicting wounds both physical and psychological. Imagine the young child who is bitten by a dog and grows up fearing dogs. That bite has a lifelong impact. Or the elderly person with paper-thin skin that gets torn when that cute little dog sinks its fangs in and pulls. And the scenario doesn’t even have to be so dramatic. The problem is, people excuse the behavior of smaller dogs all the time. Who do you think is likely to seek professional help for their biting dog first, the Chihuahua who’s bitten seven people or the mastiff who’s bitten one? And which dog do you think is likely to have complaints against them, or end up euthanized for their behavior?
While the amount of damage inflicted may vary, again, a bite is a bite is a bite. Owners need to take responsibility for their dogs’ behavior regardless of the dog’s size. Those police officers in the U.K. should have treated little Louie exactly the same as if he had been a larger sized dog. Laws do not apply only to certain breeds and not to others. Owners of small dogs with aggression issues need to take just as much responsibility for their dogs as owners of large dogs do, and others need to stop making excuses for them. ___________________________________________________________________________________
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